November 28: The beauty of mathematics is that it provides not only beautiful solutions to problems but also an unlimited number of opportunities to ask new questions. While some internet users have taken over the web with memes about how difficult mathematics is, there are platforms where individuals of all ages may play and learn through mathematical games. Matific is among the platforms that are raising mathematics education for today’s youngsters beyond a strictly numerical endeavour.
In this candid interview, Andrew Crisp, Product, and Innovation Head at Matific explains how he went from being a prize-winning professor at the University of Sydney to working in the burgeoning educational technology industry, as well as how Matific’s engaging platform and unique approach to teaching math are grounded in Matific’s own pedagogical principles and help make math more approachable to children.
So, how would you describe the transformation from lecturer to product manager?
I always found teaching to be more rewarding than research, yet as my career developed, I wanted to have a larger impact. Each year I would only teach a few hundred students, but I knew many of them were watching YouTube videos of other lecturers for additional support. That began my fascination and, ultimately, my career switch into the EdTech sector. I want to connect with students all over the globe and inspire in them a lifelong love of learning, and Matific offered me a truly unrivalled opportunity to do just that.
Every major e-learning platform promises personalized learning. Matific’s educational concepts value personalized learning as well. What distinguishes it from the others?
I could discuss this subject for many hours, but I will limit my reply to two important ways we distinguish ourselves. Firstly, we always attempt to intervene right when the student needs assistance; rather than asking them to complete a long test, process the results, and then provide more questions, we instead help the student right when they make their first mistake. We try to make this experience seamless for the student and help them reach success in the shortest possible time. Secondly, we factor in more than just their “knowledge profile”—we want the experience to be truly personal. Through interactions with our characters on the platform, students feel comfortable and supported on an emotional level. For many students, the correct “personalization” is not to look for a question that they have a high probability of getting correct but instead to help them overcome their math anxiety and see themselves as persistent, capable, and successful.
Although Matific has been shown to increase children’s enthusiasm for mathematics, others may worry that it may also develop a sense of dread in them. Do give us your views on this.
I can say confidently that these “others” are likely confusing Matific with some other platform, one where students are regularly subjected to a barrage of worksheet-style questions and the teachers are guided to use the results to segregate their class and focus on fact retention. At Matific, we take great pride in being a platform that is universally loved by students, who beg their teachers to play every day. The sense of “dread” that students experience in math is the problem that Matific has always focused on as a principal problem to overcome! If any student were to report feeling that way while playing Matific, I would only encourage them to play more, and over time the feelings of anxiety (likely built up throughout their entire education) will start to fade.
It’s a no-brainer that grades K–6 would benefit most from Matific. From the perspective of an educator, let’s discuss the perks of Matific for classroom instructors.
Once again, I could talk for hours, but I’ll give my top three. Firstly, the activities in Matific are fun, hilarious, and exciting; any teacher can put one up on their smartboard and become an instant superstar with the class as they talk through all the rich detail embedded in every item. Secondly, there’s the Live Classroom reporting, which allows teachers to run incredible class wide learning and practice sessions; they are alerted whenever a student starts to struggle or loses focus. This is a feature many teachers report as their favourite when using it in class, particularly for teachers who are not confident in their use of technology. Finally, there are multiple ways to assign work to your students: let Matific decide (adaptive), assign, and personalize yourself, or let students choose in the Training Zone. No matter what your teaching style is, you will find it easy to augment your lessons or homework with Matific.
Adaptive learning is most likely the future of education. What are the obstacles you anticipate, and how prepared is Matific for them?
Adaptive technology is advancing, and Matific is at the forefront of the endeavour. The most significant challenge is working effectively with educators to maximize our impact. I think the best analogy is something like a self-driving car, but in reverse. Most adaptive technologies are “black boxes”—the system is self-driving, and the teacher has no transparency or control. It’s our challenge to find ways to involve teachers in a meaningful way, letting them “take the wheel” if they want to, and helping them achieve their goals.
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